Time running out for Equality Bill

It appears the Labour Government's Equality Bill is facing a race against time, the bill which harmonises existing equality legislation and adds key new provisions must be enacted before the next general election.

Commentators are currently predicting that the election is likely to be held in May 2010, it must be called by June 3rd 2010 in any case. The Guardian newspaper reports that much of the key detail of the bill will not be drafted until April 2010, leaving little time to pass the bill if an election was to be held in May 2010.

The bill still needs to complete its passage through the House of Commons, and faces the prospect of weeks of debate in the House of Lords. If it is not passed in time the bill risks facing a veto from the newly formed Conservative government.

There would be little hope of rescuing the bill as the Conservatives track record on equality is poor to say the least, only a few months ago did David Cameron issue an apology for the party's opposition to section 28, yet the party recently opposed fertility rights for Lesbian couples.

Though the Conservatives have been fairly muted publicly about the bill, it's obvious they are opposed to it. The Conservative party tried to strike down the Equality Bill during its second reading in the House of Commons when all but one of their MP's voted against it.

Equality campaigning groups now face a double bind of trying to ensure the bill has the right provisions for their specific equality interest, and delaying the bill. This could lead to the equivalent of having your cake and not eating it. A bill which would appease all but never got passed.

If given the choice would equality practitioners accept improved equality legislation, or taking a step back? It's a bit of a rhetorical question but one that faces every equality campaigning body, for their very own existence could be at stake.

Earlier this week Human Rights campaigner Peter Catchall complained publicly about the provision against harassment not covering gay and trans status, but did for other equality strands. It would not be surprising to learn if other much needed provisions are missing from the bill. But public shaming of the current regime may not be the best option right now as it throws their resources into their spinning machine and not straight to the policy makers.

The fact of the matter is whatever Labour's motivation behind the bill was, it's our collective responsibility to ensure that it's passed in time. Anyone who works in the equality field would agree at the very least if the bill if passed, it would take the Conservatives tenure to detangle, which may not be such a bad thing and may serve as a gentle nudge in the right direction. It might just be easier for them to embrace this equality stuff.

It's thought that if the bill receives Royal assent by December 2010 it will just make it in time to be part of British Law in August 2010. In any case it's probably time Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown got acquainted just in case!


posted by

Asif Yusuf



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